No hops with the hoops: NCAA rules ban beer sales at Final Four

04/04/2014 9:23 PM

11/12/2014 4:34 PM

After the last buzzer sounds at the Final Four, fans of three colleges will be drowning their sorrows — while followers of the lone winner will be raising a toast in victory.

But they’ll be doing it with a soda, a sports drink or some other G-rated beverage.

The fabled $9.50 beer that’s normally such a prominent feature of AT&T Stadium, home of the Dallas Cowboys, is nowhere to be found this weekend at the college basketball championship.

Sales of beer or any other alcohol are prohibited in the general seating areas at NCAA-sponsored events. Alcohol may be consumed in luxury boxes and other restricted areas, but for most fans, the event will be dry.

The National Collegiate Athletic Association’s bylaws prohibit not only the sale but also the advertising of alcohol, cigarettes or other products “that do not appear to be in the best interests of higher education.”

In other words, there are no hops with these hoops.

Several fans who attended free practice sessions Friday for this year’s Final Four — Connecticut, Florida, Kentucky and Wisconsin — were stunned to find no beer sales at AT&T Stadium concession stands. Taps were removed from beer dispensers, and the menu board featured only nonalcohol items, including $6 souvenir sodas, $10 roast turkey sandwiches and $12 hot dog sliders.

“They’re attempting to control people they can’t,” said Ryan Foppe, 33, a Dallas high school teacher who attended the practices with two friends. The trio munched nachos and drank sodas, although Foppe — usually not a drinker — said he might have bought a beer if it were available.

The Dallas residents said they understand the NCAA’s desire not to promote alcohol use at events attended by college students, many of whom haven’t reached the legal drinking age of 21.

But they said it’s naive to think that fans won’t imbibe outside the stadium or sneak booze into the games in plastic containers that won’t set off metal detectors.

“There are people who are going to drink anyway,” Foppe said.

Although the lack of adult beverages at the Final Four represents a loss of revenue, organizers said it’s no big deal.

Although some universities allow alcohol sales — the University of Texas at Austin, for example, began selling beer and wine at select events Feb. 28 — most still say “no” to suds on school grounds or at school-sponsored events.

“Folks who come in for the Final Four and follow NCAA sports are used to the rule,” said Tony Fay, spokesman for the North Texas Local Organizing Committee, which brought the Final Four to the Metroplex. “It is what it is. I don’t think it inhibits anybody’s fun whatsoever.”

Beer is sold at most bowl games during the winter, but those events are hosted by various bowl committees, not the NCAA.

Also at AT&T Stadium on Friday, logos for not only Miller Lite but also Dr Pepper were covered up in the end zones. The NCAA allows the display of logos only from corporations sponsoring the games. At the entrances to the Final Four courtside seating area, visitors were allowed to bring in drinks only if they were in a Powerade cup. Security guards stood at each entrance, checking credentials and enforcing the drink restriction.

Doug Williams, 54, and Georgetta Williams, 56, of Lexington, Ky., said they’re used to the alcohol ban. They often travel to Kentucky road games, and few places allow alcohol sales.

“It doesn’t bother me,” Williams, who was sporting a blue and white wig, said of the alcohol ban at AT&T Stadium. “I wouldn’t mind having a drink right now, though. We’ll probably get some on the way back to the hotel.”

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